I have watched my husband struggle with a quiet dignity since his bipolar diagnosis several months ago, and I have observed a remarkable healing taking place. He rang his life insurance provider with a query in the interim, and mentioned his new diagnosis. As a result, they wont insure him until a year has passed. It was irritating to us both, of course, but more than that, it was troubling. He has to hang on for a year. If you had said that it was a possibility that he wouldn’t be around in a year, at the start of 2013, I would have sadly agreed. Today, I see a man coming back to life. He was brave for so long, from the age of twelve, when he was made to leave home by two damaged parents, and survive on his own. People break. People sometimes crack over the smaller things. The car breaking down, the rego being due, a friendship drifting. It takes one superfluous incident hauled on top of a pile of bigger issues to break a back. To break a mind. I had a woman come by, and try to coax me to leave him after his diagnosis. She gleefully reported that she knew the destructive things he had done when he went missing, as he had told her. She said he was grubby and appeared as a homeless man. She went on and on, denigrating his character, and all I know him to be. I ended my association with a heavy heart.
He is my husband, and has been so for fourteen years. He has been with me throughout my early adulthood, and has sacrificed much. He was unwell, and is doing everything in his power to keep well. When he was in the depths of illness, he couldn’t see how sick he was. How could anyone have expected him too? He is still not drinking, and takes his meds by the clock. He has tremendous regret for the pain of the past six years. We talk about it sometimes, and how it was for me. Confused, alone, and often abandoned. I am aware that he falls into depression over what is past, beating himself up over behaviour he had no control of. I am in the unique position of being able to understand what it is like to feel as though you have had a personality transplant. On and off endometriosis and IVF drugs, being in and out of chemical menopause… Feeling angrier than you have ever felt, with a despicable depression you can’t begin to describe. Knowing its not you, even though it feels like it is coming from deep inside your brain and soul. To see the sunlight again and the truth of yourself reappearing… It is early days, and we have strived to get the balance of medications right. It has been hard and scary. I get scared when he is buoyant. Is he too happy? Is it real happiness? I get scared when he becomes frustrated. Will he be able to self-soothe and calm himself? I get scared when he is late home or goes for a walk. We are both re-learning our roles in this relationship. I can own my pain and give it voice. I need to, for there was a lot of it. He is taking responsibility for his health, and I am so very proud of him. My hormones have been imbalanced and that has at times made me feel wretched. His brain chemicals were unbalanced, and he is dealing with that. Nobody can judge him more harshly than he judges himself. I thank all the wondrous people who have provided mateship and support. It has meant so much. Understanding is a gift that you give not only to the person with a mental illness, but to their whole family.